was successfully added to your cart.

Project Management Books: 20 Best Books for Project Managers

By 06/12/2016Features, General

Project management books can be an incredibly useful tools if you’re new to project management or have just been put in charge of a massive, scary project. Read up, learn and get some project management books on your bookshelf.

While it’s impossible to replace real-life project management experience, project management books can come in handy when you’ve got a few gaps in your project management experience that you want to fill, you’re taking on a new type of project, or an aspect of a project that you’ve not done before.

The beauty of books on project management is that while you may not have the necessary experience, several others do! Sure, trial and error may be a great way to learn, but being able to avoid errors by using over someone else’s project management knowledge and experience is always a smart choice.

But with so many books on project management, how do you find the best project management book for you? There are project management books to cover everything from basic project management skills and techniques to the softer skills of leadership, communication, delegation and productivity.

To make the choice easier, we’ve curated a list of 20 of the best project management books and divided them into newbie, beginner, experienced and advanced levels of project management expertise so that you can find a book to match your level of PM experience.

Expertise Level: Newbie

  • So you think you want to be a digital project manager? eBook

    5 out of 5
    $25.00

So you think you want to be a Digital Project Manager? by Ben Aston

This is a digital project management book for anyone who thinks they might want to get started in a career as a digital project manager (DPM). The book covers what being a digital project manager is all about; what digital project management is, why I love it and what DPMs actually do all day. The book explores what makes a great digital project manager and explores where you can begin and what steps you can take to start your career as a DPM.

Read it for:
– A helpful introduction to the world of digital project management
– A handy guide to pivoting your career towards the role of a digital project manager

Expertise Level: Beginner

1. Project Management JumpStart by Kim Heldman

If you are someone handling a project for the first time, this project management book is a great place to (jump) start. Project Management JumpStart is an easy-to-read project management book written in a friendly, conversational tone. It thoroughly covers project management basics and the project management lifecycle that those new to project management will need to get acquainted with – the planning, executing, managing and closing of projects. It includes great content which although not digital-specific, helps bring the principles of project management to life with practical content that useful for applying to digital projects. You’ll find examples with case studies, and well-thought solutions for handling most problems you’re likely to come up against on your first few projects.

Read it for:
– Handy case studies and helpful examples
– A broad high-level understanding of project management

2. Project Management: Absolute Beginner’s Guide by Greg Horine

Another project management book that covers the project management lifecycle, beginning from ideation and planning to closing and post-project management. Beginners can really make use of this book to learn about building a project plan and proper work breakdown structure (WBS), creating budgets and timelines. If you haven’t done this before, this book is all you need in order to know how to make a project schedule, set a budget and manage it, control deliverables, manage conflict and risks, ensure quality communication, work with stakeholders, be a great leader, and even more! It may be a lot to take in at once, but it is great to use as a guide at every stage of a new project.

Read it for:
– Mastering the key skills of project management
– Learning how to keep projects on track

3. Project Management for Non-Project Managers by Jack Ferraro

The reason beginners need to read this book is that it covers not only what project managers need to do, but also explains this in the light of various types of managers and how their tasks differ. It primarily compares Project Managers with Functional Managers, and highlights that while the latter may be interested in the status quo, project managers need to work on a dramatic change. While Functional Managers focus on small progressions that will improve productivity and success, Project Managers need to come up with plans that bring huge improvements – and this book tells you how to do that.

Read it for:
– Step-by-step guidelines, case studies, and illustrations
– Guidance on developing core project management skills

4. The Lazy Project Manager: How to Be Twice As Productive and Still Leave the Office Early by Peter Taylor

A project management classic! And if you’ve not seen or heard of the Lazy Project Manager before – although the book’s provacative title might imply project managers need not work hard – that’s not actually what the book is about. The book suggests achieving the perfect balance between work and relaxation – a pleasant 80/20 ratio where you can get more work done in lesser time – hence the term ‘lazy’. It is short and snappy, but covers all main things new project managers should know. It’s helpfully divided into the three main stages: Startup, Execution, Conclusion. It’s actually probably the least lazy definition of the word ‘lazy’!

Read it for:
– Fun, digestible, lazy project management takeaways
– Practical tips specifically for newbies

5. Project Management For You: How to Turn Your Ideas Into Reality, Deliver On Your Promises, and Get Things Done by Cesar Abeid

This book is one of those that you finish reading, put down, and immediately get to work! Abeid’s writing will stir in you a constructive ambition to start working, because it will make you feel like everything you need to handle is easily manageable. The overall book is about the specifics of project management, but is also about ridding newbies of the nervousness and reluctance that may make them feel like they can’t get through this. As further guidance, he defines exactly what a project should mean, and shares personal examples and all the steps required to reach the finish line.

Read it for:
– Personal examples and stories that make project management best practice easy to understand
– Applying project management principles to all areas of life

6. Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager by Kory Kogon

For new project managers, one of the most major problems is leadership. They might have the skills that a manager needs, but do they know how to lead a team of people, motivate them and get things done? This book is quick and concise – a short, easy read for anyone who finds themselves a project manager, but without the title. It elaborates on how important leadership is for success, what the formula for it is and how beginners can get a hang of it. It also helps demonstrate the importance of leadership in project completion and how to manage people in a formula for success.

Read it for:
– Memorable ‘Project Management Proverbs’
– Personal stories of several authors and professionals

7. The Plugged-In Manager: Get in Tune with Your People, Technology, and Organization to Thrive by Terri L. Griffith

This book is written by a management professor and technology expert that directly speaks to managers about the three pillars of project management; people, technology and organizational processes. The book teaches the most effective way to balance these three fundamental pillars, telling the modern day manager how to handle a dynamic workplace that changes day to day, to adapt to a rapidly changing technological ecosystem. Lastly, it teaches a manager how to understand the important information and insights that often remain hidden but overpower the traditional management mindsets and communications.

Read it for:
– Guidance on blending tools, talents and organizational design to be effective
– Case studies and interviews with advice from various leaders in the field

Expertise Level: Experienced

8. Strategic Project Management Made Simple: Practical Tools for Leaders and Teams by Terry Schmidt

Terry Schmidt focusses on execution – taking projects from strategy to effective implementation. The book provides a detailed approach on how to apply the principles of learned theory into real projects, and that too across several industries. The book covers something several experienced managers may easily forget: handling projects with a strategic perspective and answering the big picture, ‘why’ of a project properly.

Read it for:
– Discovering ways to improve project portfolio management
– Strategic insights on executing the right project; and making  sure you are executing the project right

9. Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure by Todd C. Williams

While most other reads you find break down the project management process, Williams does the opposite; he looks at the job from a holistic perspective. Once you are past the stage where you need to understand what project management is, this is the book that will give you insight into in-depth issues and risks, and the possible approaches you can take. The author emphasizes on key factors that must be looked at when trying to save a project; these include forming a strong team, staying involved with it and finding answers within it.

Read it for:
– Help on identifying problems in projects and applicable approaches to cleaning them up
– Guidance on how to deal with problem projects and make use of objective data

10. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling by Harold R. Kerzner

This is not a cheap book but it’s a great reference resource – it’s huge! It so big because it’s got an exhaustive set of solutions to every possible scenario you might face in project management. It’s a helpful companion to PMI®’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) so if you’re studying for the PMP and are interested in more than just passing the exam, it’s a great choice to bring the theory to life with case studies, discussion and exam questions.

Read it for:
– A textbook approach – bullet lists of problems and solutions
– Intricately divided sections with easy-to-find information

11. Leadership in Project Management: Leading People and Projects to Success by Mohit Arora and Haig Baronikian

You won’t find many books that focus on the soft skills of project management – the art and leadership required for successful project management. This is a great book that recognizes the importance of proper leadership involved in effective project management, and how those lead to success. While it talks about being a leader, it is also a guide on interpersonal work relationships; it will teach you not only how to be the perfect manager, but also an entrepreneur, a change agent, an influencer and sometimes even a cheerleader! This is all of the people’s skills you need to enhance productivity – in one place.

Read it for:
– Tips on how to be a stronger, more effective project leader
– Advice on how to be inspiring to your team

12. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

This easy to read book uses a parable, storytelling approach to teach how to handle problem projects and deal with challenging, or struggling teams. It has been written with constant reference to a hypothetical story of the new CEO of a downhill start-up. It talks about the dysfunctional team that this leader must work with, and then puts forward a model that seems to work perfectly well not only in the story, but is easily applicable to your teams and any management situations.

Read it for:
– A challenge on taking risk and encouraging healthy conflict
– A clear model for identifying team dysfunction and implementing change

13. The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management by Tom DeMarco

The book follows the life and work of a project manager asked to meet seemingly impossible deadlines; yes, it’s everyone’s worst management fear in one story. This is not for beginners because it does not provide a clear guide or model, but puts forth the mindset that you need to get things done, and how to make peace with it. It will teach you, for instance, how to ignore the inevitabilities when you are on an impossibly tight deadline, and how to choose – if you must- what to improve. For experienced managers, this story will provide more practical information than several regular textbooks altogether.

Read it for:
– Witty, subtle tips on management
– Simplistic ways to get more done in less time

Expertise Level: Advanced

14. Brilliant Project Management: What the best project managers know, do, and say by Stephen Barker

This book covers the basics, but without the theory. It’s really written more at an advanced project manager level – useful for going back to when trying to refresh on the factors that lead to success. The best part? It seems to add a little more value every time you go over it. Regardless of the methodology you are trained in, you will find pragmatic ideas on the very grounds of project management; it’s a timeless piece that revises the basics – but with the wit of an experienced professional – and reminds you how to maintain success. While this may seem like a simple guide for a novice, it is a light-hearted overview for an advanced project manager – something you’ll keep on you as your all-time reference book.

Read it for:
– Funny illustrations and real-life examples
– Amusing, digestible content

15. Becoming The Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders by Lindsey Pollak

While most books come with general project management and communication advice, this one deals specifically with Generation Y employees. Since many of the best-written books are now becoming outdated, this is on the newer generation’s motivation, their way of working, how they communicate, and things they might need to learn; it is essentially about staying successful in the future. If you are someone trying to train a team of young, fresh professionals, this book might just become your training plan. This is for the group that wants information not only on leading but also on listening, prioritizing, connecting and growing.

Read it for:
– Leadership plan for new young professionals
– Advice from Lindsey’s mom!

16. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

Although not project management specific, this one’s a classic! When it comes to examples of success – this one takes the lead. This is not another set of short case studies or personal examples, but a detailed analysis studying why companies succeed, or not. You’d think this is all business theory, but you’ll find out that it actually talks about how to be successful – the importance of leadership values like humility, optimism and passion – all of which a great project manager is incomplete without.

Read it for:
– Help on more broadly developing a management style to inspire and ensure success

17. Getting Things Done by David Allen

Dubbed ‘the Bible of business and personal productivity, Allen’s book is not for everyone. Beginners have often called it ‘a little too complex’, but experienced project managers swear by the system advocated in the book. Not only does it provide a plan for productivity of the task force, it also aims at helping you gain control of your life; it supports the idea that no system will work for you if you are loaded with stress. For all of those who have too many things to do, too little time and too much hassle getting on their nerves, this is the go-to book. It will rid you of the clutter and unformed tasks, guiding you towards rapid progress blocked only by poor organization.

Read it for:
– Tips on how to be more relaxed and organized
– A guide to how to filter out the junk and get more done with the same resources
– A completely coached plan and implementation process

18. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

We are all creatures of habit, but not all our habits are good ones. In fact, many of our habits are inimical to success. This book explores how we can change our habits in order to succeed.  It takes into account everyone’s habits from a micro scale – such as individuals – to a macro scale – such as companies and retailers. It helps study the patterns that morph their lives, allowing the ability to cultivate and strengthen these habits. The book provides inspiration for being a better you; making you a more effective and productive individual while also teaching you how to cultivate these constructive habits in your work life.

Read it for:
– Approaches for mastering your habits in your personal and professional life
– Leveraging effective habits to manage projects better

19. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey

Ideal for those looking to become better, more all-rounded leaders, this is another book focusing on project productivity through making personal development the first preference. Pointing out that public victories must be preceded b private victories, Covey outlines 7 essential habits and how to practice and eventually permanently incorporate them into one’s personality. The habits range from self-mastery to teamwork and communication. Essentially, it outlines the journey a project manager must make from being dependent to becoming independent, and finally learning the constructive art of interdependence.

Read it for:
– A psychological-philosophical approach to attaining strength of mind and personality
– Cognitive training and tips to improve intrapersonal intelligence

20. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter F. Drucker

In 1966, this was the first book to actually define an ‘executive’, and to explain the how executive executives must work. While several more modern literature has now been written on the same, Drucker was the first to point out that there is nothing like a naturally-successful executive, and that effectiveness can be learned by anyone who is willing to invest time and effort into it. It explains all aspects of successful management through one minor change successful people bring and maintain in themselves: time management. This includes everything from deciding what to do and what not to, delegating, creating policies, respecting others, etc.; it is the ultimate advice and reminder for a lifetime of successful project management.

Read it for:
– How to create policy decisions without stress
– When, why and how to stay out of things others should do
– Being an influential, effective and stress-free leader

Get reading!

About Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and VP of Client Services at FCV, a full service digital agency in Vancouver, Canada. I've been in the industry for more than 10 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from video virals to CMS’, flash games to banner ads and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

One Comment

  • Ian May says:

    If you’re looking for a book with a definite DPM slant then ‘A Practical Guide to Managing Web Projects’ by Breandan Knowlton (Five Simple Steps) is a great resource.

Leave a Reply